Friday, July 21, 2006

How I blog

For me, blogging began as a leisure and casual pursuit and now it has become part of my job, creative activity and part of my socialisation. We are still a less connected country of 165,803,560 people (according to the June 2006 estimates) with only a few bloggers, even though the users’ base is exponentially growing. Read how I blog here. The article originally appeared in Dawn Sci Tech World.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Baloch websites banned

LAHORE: The PTA stopped access to four Baloch websites carrying material about Baloch nationalists, BBC reported on Thursday. The PTA cited “misinformation” as the reason for banning the websites, reported BBC. The banned sites are: www.balochvoice.com, www.baloch2000.org, www.sanabaloch.com and www. balochfront.com.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Yahoo accused of helping jail China Internet writer

"BEIJING, April 19 (Reuters) Yahoo Inc may have helped Chinese police to identify an Internet writer who was subsequently jailed for four years for subversion in the third such case, an advocacy group for journalists said on Wednesday.
News implicating Yahoo in the imprisonment of Jiang Lijun in 2003 surfaced on the eve of a summit between Chinese President Hu Jintao and U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington. It was the third such case involving the U.S. Internet giant. Yahoo was accused of providing electronic records to Chinese authorities that led to an eight-year prison term for Li Zhi for subversion in 2003 and of helping to identify Shi Tao, who was accused of leaking state secrets abroad and jailed last year for 10 years. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said it had obtained a copy of the verdict showing that Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) helped Chinese police to identify Jiang by confirming that the e-mail account ZYMZd2002 had been used jointly by Jiang and another pro-democracy activist Li Yibing. Yahoo could not immediately be reached for comment. The company has defended itself in the past, saying it had to abide
by local laws." How bad is that....

Friday, April 14, 2006

Herald Magazine's Overview on the Blog Ban issue

Supreme Court ban silences Pakistani bloggers
by Salman Siddiqui (Appeared in Herald magazine April issue)

Here's the unedited version:
"On 27th February, Pakistan’s Telecommunication Authority (PTA) issued instructions to all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block 12 websites that contained material that was termed blasphemous. Ten of the sites showed the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), while one had lampooned Jesus and the other satirized both religious figures. However, following this action millions of websites other than the original 12 were blocked in the process.
This was caused mainly due to the blocking of one particular site address in the PTA list that was hosted on a popular server owned by Google called BlogSpot on which millions of people from around the world including Pakistan maintain weblogs or blogs. Instead of banning just that one particular address hosted on BlogSpot, Pakistan’s Internet Exchange (PIE), a subsidiary of Pakistan Telecommunications Limited, which filters 90 percent of the country’s Internet traffic, blocked all sites that ended with ‘blogspot.com’ in the site address.
With ISPs not divulging any information to confused bloggers in the days following the ban, speculations on the timing of this action, which was taken just a week before President Bush’s visit to Pakistan, was rife especially as many blogs contained anti-Musharraf views with some covering sensitive issues such as the Balochistan insurgency. An example of one such site is http://freeBaloch.blogspot.com, which is openly critical of government policies.
On March 2, it became clear that the issue behind the ban was the row over the Danish cartoons. The Supreme Court, in response to two petitions filed against the accessibility of the blasphemous cartoons on the Internet by Dr Imran Uppal and seeking registration of cases under blasphemy law by Maulvi Iqbal Haider, directed the government to block websites that contained sacrilegious cartoons. The federal government, Ministry of Telecommunication, PTA, PEMRA, Yahoo Inc. USA, and the websites themselves were cited as respondents in the petition.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry is reported to have observed in the preliminary hearing, “We will not accept any excuse or any technical objection on this issue as it concerns sentiments of the entire Muslim Ummah”. In the next hearing on 13th March, PTA informed the court that the list of 12 sites provided by the petitioners had been blocked throughout Pakistan. On 20th March, Maulvi Haider’s counsel also asked the court to prosecute PTA for criminal negligence since the websites remained available in Pakistan for seven months and called for registration of cases under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code according to which the death sentence can be awarded to those using derogatory remarks against the holy Prophet (PBUH) by words, writing or any imputation.
Despite the ban, the 12 websites and any others ending in blogspot.com can still be viewed in Pakistan even now, since the technical nature of the Internet is such that one can use a number of tools such as proxy servers to circumvent the ban. Also, apart from those 12, there are millions of other websites that contain similar if not more offensive material that remain openly accessible; this makes the ban look ironic since sites such as the Church of Satan website which enlists devil worshippers online continues to be accessible to Pakistani netizens.
The truth is that one can’t ban all such sites because once one starts doing that, firstly the Internet speed of the entire country slows down since each website browsed by everyone at any part of the country at any time would first have to pass through a filtering process. Secondly one might ban a million website on one given day but the very next day the same or millions more new websites carrying similar offensive material might crop up and huge resources, not to forget huge funds, would have to be allocated to constantly monitor and update the blocked sites databases. Thirdly, millions of other harmless sites, such as in the current case of BlogSpot, get unnecessarily banned as a result in the process.
The fact is that moral policing, at least in the online world, doesn’t work. Ever since the Internet was launched in the country, the government tried its best to block pornographic material available online and still maintains a database running into thousands to block such sites at PIE’s end, but even now pictures from Amazing Hotties Club and the likes remain just a click away for anyone’s viewing. Unfortunately, as absurd as it may sound, the only way to ensure complete blockage of any such objectionable material online is to ban the Internet from the country altogether. But is that the right solution in the interest of the people of Pakistan? The court case continues and shall rule over that. "

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How to access Blogger (.blogspot) sites

You can access your blogger blog (or any other blogger site) via www.pkblogs.com or simply www.pkblogs.com/blogname

For example spider blog (www.spiderisat.blogspot.com) can be accessed at www.pkblogs.com/spiderisat

Happy Browsing :)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blogspot ban continues - cyber activism on

It is indeed a sorry state of affairs that the Pakistani blogosphere has to get into anonymous surfing and proxy servers simply to read something completely harmless on other blogs. And if you can believe it, a proxy server being used to read blogs has also joined the list of banned websites.

I feel we should actively try and do something about it. Join the following Google group if you haven't already:

Action Group Against Blogspot Ban in Pakistan

The group right now is discussing whom to contact and where to send press releases. So jump right in!

In the meantime, freedom of expression (with responsibility of course) and Anonymouse rules!

Update 8th March 2006 => The Alvie Team comprising of Dr Awab Alvi (aka Teeth Maestro) and Omar Alvie have launched the Don't Block the Blog Campaign! The campaign formally began on 3rd March. Join in, if you haven't already!

Did anyone catch the News yesterday? Ethan Casey wrote on the blogspot ban. Read the whole article: Freedom of Speech is a Global Issue

Monday, March 06, 2006

The News: "Ban on 'blasphemous' websites"

The country's telecom authorities that imposed a ban last week on websites inviting people to draw blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have also blocked several blogs that have no connection with the cartoon controversy. "In their efficiency, PTA axed the host instead of the URLs that could easily have been blocked without causing this problem," said an IT professional working for a Karachi-based ISP, who requested anonymity, writes Ammara Durrani in The News today.
"We will not accept any excuse or technical objection on this issue because it relates to the sentiments of the entire Muslim world," Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was reported to have said while hearing two constitutional petitions seeking the blocking of websites showing "blasphemous" material on the Internet."
Discussion continues under KO's posting below.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Blogspot (and other sites) blocked

I received an email about blogspot sites being blocked:
can you please check blogspot sites? It seems like government of Pakistan has banned blogspot hosted blogs. I have asked many friends using different ISPs to try and connect my blogspot hosted blog and they are all unable to access it or any blog hosted on blogspot.

On checking, blogspot is currently blocked from Pakistan. Before now, the GOP was blocking a few blogspot sites, but now they've gone all out and have blocked every single blogspot site. Blogspot itself is running fine and dandy, as can be checked by accessing it through a proxy server based outside Pakistan. The block seems to be at the DNS level only - typing the IP address of blogger takes you there directly: http://66.102.15.100.

For workarounds, see:
HOWTO bypass Internet Censorship, Anonymouse and TOR.

Any knowledgable in the Pakistani telecoms/isp industry know how exactly the Pakistani govt. censors the internet? Such information would be really helpful in writing an article about it (for publication in local magazine/newspaper).

Ironically, this post is not readable by the intended audience as this website is currently blocked in Pakistan!

Correction: The block is not just at the DNS level, it's also blocking IP addresses.

Update: The block is at the ISP level. Not all internet traffic is routed through the Pakistan Internet Exchange, so the govt. must have ordered local ISP's to block certain websites. All the major ISP's in Pakistan are blocking weblogs hosted at blogspot.com.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cartoon contest and counter-contest Online now

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An Iranian newspaper's contest for cartoons about the Holocaust, launched Monday in response to a series of caricatures about the Prophet Mohammed, has already drawn at least two entries - one from Brazil and one from Australia, the paper said. Hamshahri, one of Iran's top five newspapers, said its contest was a test of the Western world's readiness to print cartoons about the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews in World War II. It called for cartoons under the title: ``What is the Limit of Western Freedom of Expression?''
 
Israel Launches SEO Contest Against Iran Holocaust Cartoons
In response to Iran's best-selling newspaper announcing a competition to find the best cartoons about the Holocaust, the Israel News Agency launched an SEO - Internet search engine optimization marketing contest to prevent Iran news Websites from reaching top positions in Google. "When I heard that a newspaper in Iran was now holding a cartoon contest on the Holocaust, I knew that SEO would be the most potent tool in combating it," said Joel Leyden, publisher of the Israel News Agency. "That 12 winners in Iran would have their Holocaust cartoons published and would receive two gold coins (worth about $140 each) as a prize, I donned my SEO Israel Defense Forces uniform, cocked and loaded my keyboard. There is no way that Iran will spit on the graves of over 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust."

 

Anti-cartoon protests go online

The BBC reports that nearly 1,000 Danish websites and 1,600 additional "western" websites have been defaced by Islamic hackers protesting about the controversial cartoons. Roberto Preatoni, founder and administrator of Zone-H (a hack attack monitoring group) said, "We have never seen so many defacements that are politically targeted in such a short time".

Monday, February 13, 2006

An award for telecom

Dawn's Editorial in today's edition: "WITH all the conspiracy theorists predicting gloom and doom for the country, the news that Pakistan has received an international award for progress and development made in its telecommunication sector proves that all is not that bad after all. It has been awarded the Government Leadership Award 2006 beating heavyweight India, a serious contender for the award. This is no small achievement in a highly competitive field. Recognized for its “remarkable work in the field” by the competitive board of Global System of Mobile Association, Pakistan was lauded for creating a booming mobile communication sector by reducing tariffs and expanding the mobile subscribers’ base to 20 million in just three years. Pakistan hopes to increase this base to 50 million in the next three to four years. This can be achieved provided that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s planned investment of Rs 20 billion in the telecom sector during 2004-5 materializes and it receives two billion dollars over the next few years. There are many indicators to prove that the time is ripe for investment in this sector. In the last year or so, two major international mobile phone operators opened shop here and have performed well. Then there are wireless loop operators entering the market with various high-tech options once unimaginable.The mobile phone is no longer a rich man’s luxury as it was at one time but a necessity for everyone. Those in the service sector — like plumbers and electricians — are now always available on the phone and it has opened new vistas for lower-income entrepreneurs, who, through various micro-finance schemes, can use their mobile phones to attract business. This conducive environment will allow more players into the market and give consumers a wider choice of networks to choose from. Once the option of mobile number portability comes into play — allowing consumers to switch networks without changing their existing mobile numbers — service providers will have no option but to ensure their network’s reliability and coverage as on that front many companies have been deficient. For this the PTA will have to play a more effective role as a regulatory body, checking telecom companies’ poor services and ensuring that consumers’ complaints are taken seriously."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Google - The Art of Playing it Right!

When Google was not as all-encompassing as it is today a few months (read years in Internet time), it played linux.google.com and scholar.google.com to win the hearts of niche communities (college researchers and linux geeks). Now, with features, products and services enough to cause M$ execs sleepless nights here and there, Google still plays it right.

From a purely outsider's perspective, the true strength of Google is its ability to stay focused in its goals. Every move that Google makes seems so obvious (and natural!), one wonders why it arrived late. Google's Death will be delayed till it exhaust its ability to process information - or others (MS,Yahoo, Amazon, Ebay) learns to do the same (limitlessly process information).

Official Google Blog: Big mail on campus
We're testing a new service with the school by hosting Gmail accounts with SJCC domain addresses (like student@jaguars.sjcc.edu), plus admin tools for efficient account management. Massive storage and features that tame the most unruly inboxes, like powerful mail search, conversation view for messages, and a fast interface, make Gmail very handy for students. Together, we're pleased to provide this channel for better communications and a stronger community for all 10,000 SJCC students.

Update: Gmail is now available for custom domains! Though still in beta (and request-approval based), we can safely expect the feature to be available as permanent for all and sundry soon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Windows Live Custom Domains

Windows Live Custom Domains is a service to sign up your own domain for Windows Live services (email, hosting etc). This means that instead of using alias@hotmail.com you can get the same service for alias@yourdomain.com and log in to Windows Live Mail (formerly Hotmail) to check your mail. If you have your own domain and want reliable email hosting, you can sign up now.

Currently the service is limited to email only but I have been testing out Domain Hosting as well (internal only for the time being) and it's better than any $30 web host out there (full backups, ample bandwidth and fast load times). I am not sure about the cost metrics around domain hosting but it could be a free, ad sponsored service.

Have a look at http://ideas.live.com/ for other beta products and keep a watchful eye around the Windows Live initiative--it looks promising.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

IE 7 (beta 2) - Not Bad!

Yes, you can hear that coming from a Firefox fanatic - IE 7 (beta 2) - Not bad. I specially like the following feature and cannot wait until matching extensions are produced by the FF community to keep the tilt in favor of FF:
  1. View all Tabs button
  2. A 'close' button at every tab - makes it so easy to close the tab. Current FF implementation asks me to move my mouse between the red cross button and the tab I need to close so often.
  3. The ability to see the page in 100% or bigger or smaller as the need be
  4. The way the top area of the browser has been restricted to a few lines really makes a lot of viewable space for the website that is being visited.
  5. The ability to open a new tab by clicking a 'peaking' new tab right after the last tab! neat man!
  6. The ability to read the raw RSS and XML feeds. This will surely let the average RSS clue-less joe make use of the feature.
  7. The way the menus that have been shrinked to a side of the browser - really saves lots of wasted space.
Let's see when does this get out of beta (quite a permanent feature of Web 2.0 stuff).

Thursday, February 02, 2006

365 Tomorrows

Google finally jumped the shark last week, in a long anticipated move to diversify their portfolio, which had formerly consisted of too much wide-eyed idealism. The blogosphere jumped up and down and all around but some prompt tweaking of the page rank algorithim ensured that there was much ado about nothing.

While this move ensures that a whole future timeline will go straight to big brother without passing Venus, there are 365 other Tomorrows:

365 tomorrows is a collaborative project designed to present readers with one new piece of short speculative fiction each day for one year. Utilizing the broad palate of science fiction, our vision of the future creates a diverse pool of stories with something for everyone to enjoy.

IE7 Beta 2 Preview is Available!

Enough said.

You can download it here. Let us know what you think!

Google on a Roll!

There's been tons (literally!) of news about Google in the last ten days or so. First it was Google's refusal to give the US Department of Justice access to their user search records. Then it was Google doing censorship in China. Then it was Google missing their earnings target in their quarterly report, causing their stock to drop 10%.

Now, we know that Google really does have their own operating system -- a spinoff from Ubuntu Linux. The Register reported it in this article, with Google saying that it is for internal use only. Ars Technica also carried a similar story.

Then, we hear from eWeek in this article that Google might also be planning to go commercial on VOIP. Similar to what Skype is doing today with SkypeOut. Most likely they're doing this to generate another solid revenue stream -- since advertising is pretty much their only revenue model today.

Google's hat sure has more rabbits in it than we expect...

Why Gates hates Negroponte's $100 Laptop

Kevin Maney, a columnist for USA Today met with Bill Gates and asked him about Nicholas Negroponte's $100 Laptop for the Third World -- which has recently been endorsed by the United Nations at the World Economic Forum.

In his column, Maney writes that Gates suggested to him that cell phones would be better in such a scenario. Why? Maney thinks aloud...


On the face of it, Gates seems to be taking his position only because that darn $100 laptop doesn't run on Microsoft's Windows operating system. Negroponte chose a free Linux-based operating system — and then gored Microsoft by saying he picked it not because it's free, but because it's better.

Worse for Microsoft, if tens of millions of Negroponte's Microsoft-free laptops spread through the Third World, that kind of product base would lure developers to create more software for the machines. Major manufacturers such as Sony or Dell might decide to make better, competing supercheap non-Windows laptops.


Could Maney be right? Would one of the TIME Persons of the Year (for his philanthropy) be this selfish?

GPS Navigation to launch in India

The Hindustan Times reports in this article that GPS Navigation is to be launched in cars in India. Starting from Rs. 35,000 going up to Rs. 150,000 -- the "Navigator" will allow you to search for the closest petrol pump, food, and shopping while also give you the ability to get directions.

Can we first start by naming our roads and then putting up street name sign boards so we might also be able to implement GPS Navigation some day...?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

PK CDMA Forum

From Irfan Khan's SAIT-list:
 
"The main objective of the Pakistan CDMA Forum is to create awareness, encourage dialogue and promote CDMA technology and its use in Pakistan for telecom operators, broadcasters, manufacturers, software companies, government, academia and the general public. We aspire to provide, through Pakistan CDMA Forum, a platform to people to openly address their queries and provide a resource and database that will provide them accurate and reliable information about the latest news and developments in CDMA."

Friday, January 20, 2006

US DoJ sues Google to get access to its data

This was inevitable. Google is being sued by the US Deparment of Justice, no less because Google refused to turn over 1 week's worth of queries and the million email addresses requested of them. The reason DoJ wants this is so they can monitor sexually explicit content and material on the Internet and possibly take preventative measures. The fact that they want to "monitor", alone is enough to raise an uproar among privacy advocates. Some time back I wrote an article for Spider on Google, in which this was posed as one of the biggest risk factors to Google's integrity. There have been mixed results with ISPs facing similar issues. Many turn over the user logs and IPs to the authorities while others refuse to do so and take shelter under the privacy umberella.

Google justifies business models like scanning your email and showing ads relevant to it by arguing that your email is being scanned by bots, not humans and as such there is no malevolence (a socio-philosphical debate can ensue here). This, however, becomes a problem when the database administrators and developers have access to the databases and user accounts which creates a vector for security breach. It also becomes a problem when a court-ordered subpeona is issued.

A centralized portal managing all your data is becoming a growing concern and runs counter to the decentralized philosophy of the web. Google for example has your search history, emails, pictures, videos, IM conversations, buddy lists, web surfing (if you use Google Proxy), credit card and/or bank account information (if you signed up for Google ads) and a bunch of other stuff. It's not only Google but MSN, Yahoo and other major internet players as well who offer single sign-on services that are susceptible to such subpeonas. If Google complies to the demands of DoJ or loses the case, it will be a big blow to them as well as the privacy rights of users all over.

It's a good thing Google is standing up but it's a multi-faceted issue. Under US laws, the DoJ very well might have the right to access the data in interest of national security (to investigate or disrupt a terrorist plot) or in interest of social welfare as it is doing right now (slamming down on sexually explicit content).

Further, by resisting the demands of DoJ, Google is in a way saying that they won't help the DoJ with is anti-porn efforts. At the same time it's trying to protect it's users. Whether or not the DoJ should have the authority to invade the privacy of users for whatever reason and get access to Google's data will set the precedent for future cases (if it happens today, it won't stop hereafter).

While on the issue of privacy, here's a funny/scary ad. It's closer to reality than you might think.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Windows Live - Expo

MS returns with an answer for eBay as well as Google (recently announced) Base - Windows Live Expo. An online community intended for bying, selling and swapping. And of course, like the rest of the Web 2.0, its all Beta for now.

Windows Live Ideas – Product Page
What it is:
An online marketplace and social networking site


What it gives you:
• Free ads that are easy to post

• Browse through a wide range of categories ranging from merchandise,
events, personals and services

• Keep your dealings within a trusted network like your MSN Messenger Buddies , friends or co-workers; or open them up to anyone
• Find listings just in your area, nationwide or anywhere in between

• Add your listings to your MSN Space with one easy click

• Get detailed maps and directions for things like garage sales, homes for sale or concerts

• Communicate with people via MSN Messenger right from Expo’s site

Friday, January 13, 2006

Google Exposes Regional Biases!

Interesting. Even Google is confirming what the imams in the local mosques blast on a dialy basis ;)

The Prejudice Map
The Prejudice Map According to Google, people in the world are known for...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

It takes a lot of smart people to keep launching products constantly that make consumers sit up and take notice. Apple is one such great example. They havent looked back after the iPod, and have made sure its now part of the fashion / lifestyle trends of this century, like Hafsa posted below. Apple have just released the new MacBook Pro. I was excited to read that its four times faster than G4s, but this analysis is the only thing that's stopping me from placing an order for the MacBook Pro right now. Anyone here who disagrees with the analysis?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Really, what next?

Just came across this news item on BBC's Technology News

Levi makes iPod controlling jeans

Denim giant Levi Strauss has designed a pair of jeans able to control a wearer's Apple iPod music player. The RedWire DLX Jeans will have an iPod remote control and docking station fitted in its pockets, and comes complete with attached headphones.

Read the whole news story here

Looks like everyone is 'packing it' hein Zunaira?:)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Google Packs it

Thumbs up to Aleem's post and the ensuing dialogue since we identify with most of it. Will keep this Google post for a few days only. Would you download a Google Pack too?

In a blog entry, Google advertised why they are packing software as one--to make computing simpler. What does it contain? Google goodies [Earth, Picasa, Screensaver to display ur pics, Desktop, Toolbar, Norton for 6 months, Adware, Acrobat 7, and Mozilla. No office, yet.] Nice for school kids.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Technological and Global Pakistan

If you haven't read "The World is Flat", I highly recommend you add it to your reading list. It's a great overview of the events that transpired and led to the global economy of today.

Reading a section about India's IT boom I couldn't help but relate Pakistan's current state.

Education: India began it all with a great infrastructure when Nehru established IIT in 1951 and whose graduates claim that its standards are higher than the Ivy Leagues of America. Currently there are 6 of these intellectual "factories" among other private institutions. As an academic institution they are highly competitive for admission (and there is no greater catalyst for innovation and hard work than competition).

Leadership: India has also had good role models and as such a sense of direction and ideals, Gandhi being the most prominent. The nation listened to him and he proved to be an excellent role model by way of example (As an example, the Aga Khani community is also very united because of a common role model and ideal).

Arts and Culture: India is also enriched by the Arts. The Bollywood industry provides them with a sense of self and a rich Indian culture that they can claim their own. It not only gives them an identity but it also gives them an escape--they go to the theatre and watch a movie on the weekends with friends and family but Pakistan has no such escape (in Karachi atleast, Clifton beach is probably the most popular venue for the masses on the weekend and Funland I believe has recently been shutdown). Bollywood caters to the masses and it binds them together the same way cricket brings us together seasonally (and provides us with an excellent past time and to some extent cultivates our competitive spirit).

Economy Policy: Then there is India's socioeconomic policies. Before Manmohan Singh opened up India's economy to foreign investors in 1991, India's economy was suffocating from lack of local competition and much of its intellectual work force went abroad (primarily America). This is currently proving to be a good mishap. These same people who migrated abroad in the 1950s are now well settled and have established jobs and businesses in America. They are able to bring business back home and being alumnis of institutes like IIT are also able to recruit people abroad. They have created a Silk Route between India and America and bound to their country by their sense of culture and unified leadership.

These factors together have put India on the atlas and provided an excellent mix for growth and prosperity. Pakistan in comparison is just beginning to gain some liberty. The Pop culture is mushrooming (having come a long way from the emergence of its first popular pop icons like Vital Signs). We are also opening ourselves up to foreign investment and privatization which is another healthy indicator and in line with the steps India took a decade ago. With a track record of self-serving leaders and the resulting corruption in the ranks, a dictatorship is not so bad after all.

One stifler, however, is PTCL's strong-arming and monopolistic practices. Telecommunications is the most critical industry for global and technological growth--it ingrains a technological mindset in the masses and connects the entire nation locally and globally. In a "flat world", a strong communication infrastucture is what will gain us opportunity in the global economy the same way India achieved it (data punching, call centers and then moving up the intellectual ladder by getting into media, graphics and so on, all of which piggybacked on its rich communications infrastructure for collaboration and management).

Without growth in the telecommunications sector we can't fully participate in the global economy. We need fast broadband, satellite uplinks, redundant connections and so on. A single failure of our Internet pipe (which lasted 10 days no less) shutdown all call center businesses and showed us just how frail our infrastructure is. Our prior leaders lacked any vision of economic growth and prosperity, atleast in the global sphere and the developments right now and the stock market growth are all positive indicators.

As we step into the new year, let's hope for political stability and continue to incubate this growth and prosperity irrespective of the political climate.